Pitch Wars Advice Blog Hop
It's that exciting time of year again! No, not Christmas. Or Halloween (yet.)
It's Pitch Wars time!! For those of you who don't know about Pitch Wars, you can find out more about it here. Basically, it's a mentorship opportunity for unpublished authors. Thousands of people will submit a query package to around 100+ mentors in hopes that they will get chosen to revise their manuscripts and participate in an agent showcase round. Sounds simple enough in theory but Pitch Wars was probably the toughest four months of my life.
Whether you submitted this year or are thinking about submitting in the future, here are some takeaways from my experience as a Pitch Wars mentee.
(These are all totally my opinions! Others might disagree so take it all with a grain of salt.)
1. Not getting in is not a failure.
The first two times I participated in PW, I didn't get in. Not even close.
But I did learn how to write a query letter and a synopsis. I learned that my manuscripts probably weren't ready to be queried. Or maybe they weren't strong enough stories to try and query and that was okay too.
I learned how to hit writing deadlines. I learned how to better choose mentors to submit to. The first two years, I chose mentors who I clicked with or who maybe mentioned they liked some element that my story had. But the third year I participated, my manuscript was a very specific genre (humorous mystery) and I chose mentors who requested exactly that type of story. Which is basically learning experience for choosing agents to submit a manuscript to.
That third time, I started looking at the contest more analytically, treating it more like a business decision and less based on which mentors who had the best gifs. (I know, the gif game is hard to beat!) But part of wanting to publish a novel is learning how to make decisions as if your book is a business, not just a creative endeavor. And Pitch Wars helped me understand that.
I also learned that rejections are part of the process. They're not personal and usually not a reflection of my writing. All of this helps you become a better writer. So, not getting chosen isn't the end of the world, nor is it the end of your story. (Though it might feel that way at the time.)
2. Pitch Wars is hard. (a.k.a Revisions are Hard.)
Revisions are not easy. They're not a cake walk. And they're not always fun. You have to be willing to conform your story to someone else's vision. There will be things that you disagree with or things you don't necessarily want to do that might be deal breakers. And this is how publishing works. From an agent to an editor, they will all want you to edit things. This is not a reflection of your writing skills! Again, I repeat: this does not mean you're a terrible writer if they want you to redo two-thirds of the book.
I speak from experience as I had to redo two-thirds of my book for PW. Yup. You read that right. Two-thirds. Not because it was total crap. The story just needed more and once you pull a bit of thread, the whole sweater tends to unravel. Or maybe just the middle of the sweater or a sleeve.
The point is, if you're not willing to pull at the thread, then maybe PW isn't for you right now. Being a good writer is all about learning. Some people are naturally great at writing beautiful, lush sentences. Others might nail the story's emotional arc in the first draft. But everyone is capable of being an even better writer than you are right now. PW helps you see that.
Which leads us to....
3. Pitch Wars might change the way you write. (In fact, it will probably make you a better writer!)
One of my mentors said this to me in the very beginning. She told me flat out that PW will change the way I write. I didn't really want to believe her because I was quite happy with the way I wrote, thank you very much. But, she was completely right. It did change the way I viewed writing and revising and made me much stronger at drafting. So much so, that the manuscript I wrote right after PW was the manuscript that got me an agent.
4. Participate in Pitch Wars for the experience, the learning, and the community. Not to get an agent.
The agent round is flashy and exciting and nerve-wracking but it is not the end. It is not the true purpose of participating in PW. My current class keeps up with all the data but I know that the tons of requests during agent round does not guarantee an agent. I didn't get an agent during the showcase. Didn't get one three months later either. Nope, six months later was when the agent thing happened for me and it was with a totally different manuscript.
Some of the other mentees in my 2018 class still do not have agents. Some have incredible offers from indie presses or have decided to self publish, some are still querying the same MS, while others have started working on something new. There is no normal route to getting published. The agent showcase in PW is not a guarantee that your book will see the light of day. What it does guarantee is that you'll learn about your writing process and about publishing.
The other great thing about PW is the connections with other writers. Whether you chat with people on Twitter or Facebook or join some other online writing group, the community is one of the best parts of PW. You'll meet people who are further along in the writing journey or maybe they're just starting out BUT they all have something to offer, some insights that will be beneficial to you in some way.
Having a community also ensures that you'll have people who understand what you're going through. Writing and publishing is a strange business and no one understands better than other writers. Finding people to talk with is one of the most important things you can do for your writing career.
Because that's what you're trying to build. A career.
And participating in PW is one step to doing just that. There are a thousands steps to getting a book published and PW is merely one.